The Hill's Morning Report — What if the polls are wrong?




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report and it’s Monday before Election Day! Our daily email gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch, co-created by Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger. (CLICK HERE to subscribe!) On Twitter, find us at @joneasley and @asimendinger.

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., has an exclusive interview with Vice President Pence, who opens up about the GOP’s lame-duck session priorities, calls for political civility, border security and the migrant caravan.


Lawmakers and election forecasters are warning that the midterms polls can’t be trusted, injecting fresh uncertainty into Tuesday’s outcome.

Pollsters suffered an industry-shattering embarrassment in 2016, as survey after survey cast Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton slams Trump for spreading 'sexist trash' about Pelosi Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign DNC boss says candidates to be involved in debate lottery MORE as the prohibitive favorite and few prognosticators ventured to entertain the idea that a victory by President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE was a possibility.

Trump loves to remind the media and pollsters of the failure to see him coming. The notion that these same experts might get it wrong again in 2018 has been a point of optimism for Republicans, who have been told for months that Democrats are primed to retake the House.

The Hill: Pence predicts Republicans will hold the House.

The Wall Street Journal: Midterms headed for a mixed verdict in House, Senate.

The polling industry is still trying to get a handle on how methodologies failed them in 2016. In 2018, that effort is complicated by the volatile electorate, a dearth of polling in key races, regional differences, an unprecedented spike in early voting and questions about demographics and whether first time or irregular voters will show up at the polls.

“Two important variables that are driving uncertainty about Tuesday’s outcome: how many ‘new’ midterm voters will show up and how will non-white men, particularly Latinos, divide their support.” – Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray

Dan Balz and Scott Clement: Democrats lead in House preferences, but positive views of economy and concern about border security may buoy Republicans.

USA Today: Latest polls show a tighter lead for Democrats.

The Washington Post: Are worries over Latino turnout too little, too late?

Democrats need to flip a net of 23 seats to recapture a majority, and there is a lot riding on the over-under here. If the House does not change hands, it will come as a party-rocking disappointment for Democrats and another massive embarrassment for pollsters.

No one should be surprised if they only win 19 seats and no one should be surprised if they win 51 seats. Those are both extremely possible, based on how accurate polls are in the real world." — FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver on ABC’s “This Week”

In 2016, Silver was castigated by some in his industry when he was one of a few analysts to venture there was a better-than-expected possibility that Trump could win the election.

The Hill: 10 GOP House seats most likely to flip.

CBS News: House Democrats in position to gain but still face hurdles.

Polling is of course only one factor that forecasters are considering in their models. Many other factors also point in the direction of big gains for Democrats in the House – the president’s party historically loses seats; Trump’s approval rating is below 50 percent; many Democratic challengers have outraised GOP incumbents; special election outcomes over the past two years have revealed an enthusiasm gap in favor of Democrats; and Republican retirements have given the GOP more open seats to defend.

NBC News: Democrats lead final generic congressional ballot by 7 points.

McClatchy: GOP’s suburban problem gets real.

Still, Democrats won’t rest easy until the votes are counted and the House is theirs.

The Hill: Democrats are confident but haunted by ghosts of 2016.

The Hill: Lawmakers, forecasters say Election Day is up for grabs.

That same uncertainty extends to the Senate, where there could be more than a few surprises on Election Day.

To gain a majority, Democrats would have to run the table in the 10 states Trump won in 2016 where they’re on the ballot this year, and then flip two more GOP-held seats. That seems unlikely but it’s not impossible.

What we see right now is a situation that is a whole lot better than anyone would have predicted 18 months ago, when Republicans were saying that they might win another eight seats and have a filibuster-proof majority in the United States Senate. No one's talking about that right now. We do have a narrow path to a Senate Democratic majority.”  - Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenPhoto showing 3-year-old girl high-five new Harriet Tubman mural goes viral The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Democrats grill Trump Interior chief for saying he hasn't 'lost sleep' over climate change MORE (D-Md.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, on NBC News’s “Meet the Press”

Most forecasters believe Republicans will maintain their 51-49 majority, and possibly add one or two GOP colleagues to the caucus.

The Hill: The Senate seats most likely to flip.

NBC News: Dems have small edge in Florida Senate, gubernatorial races.

There are too many toss-ups to figure a final margin in the upper chamber, but if you’re looking for potential upsets or polling mishaps — beyond the close races — Republicans believe they have opportunities in New Jersey and Minnesota, while Democrats have their eyes on Texas and Tennessee. It’s also possible that an under-the-radar candidate, someone like combat veteran John James (R) in Michigan, fits the mood in his state and springs an upset.

William Galston, The Brookings Institution: Are the 2018 midterm election polls accurate?

Evan Horowitz, The Boston Globe: Expect the polls to get it wrong.

Sean Trende, RealClearPolitics: A look at some of the 2018 survey uncertainties.

Pew Research Center: Exit polls, election surveys and more — a guide for the 2018 midterms.

Simon Schuster, Michigan State University: Which polls matter?

The New York Times: Results of the newspaper’s 96 midterm polls conducted with Siena College.

While the polls might be suspect, a few things are certain:

Turnout is off the charts, and this will be the most expensive midterm election cycle in American history.   

The Hill: Huge turnout and surge of young voters raises Dem hopes for a wave.

Reuters: Welcome to America’s costliest election.




FROM THE TRAIL: Trump will wrap up a furious stretch of campaigning by returning to the White House just before 2 a.m. on Election Day following rallies in Ohio, Indiana and Missouri for GOP Senate and gubernatorial candidates.

In Ohio, Republican Mike DeWine is in a close race with Democrat Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayHouse rebukes Mulvaney's efforts to rein in consumer bureau The road to the White House still goes through Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan announces presidential run MORE for the governor’s mansion. In Indiana and Missouri, the Senate races are headed for the wire, with Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Obama honors 'American statesman' Richard Lugar Former GOP senator Richard Lugar dies at 87 MORE (D-Ind.) trying to fend off a challenge from Republican Mike Braun and Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillCongress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Lobbying world Big Dem names show little interest in Senate MORE (D-Mo.) in a tight race with Republican Josh Hawley.

Pence, meanwhile, will hold a rally in Montana for Republican Matt Rosendale. The White House has made defeating Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Overnight Defense: Trump officials say efforts to deter Iran are working | Trump taps new Air Force secretary | House panel passes defense bill that limits border wall funds MORE (D-Mont.) a priority.

From there, Pence is off to Rapid City, S.D., to support Republican Rep. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemTrump touts 'BIG FIREWORKS' returning to Mt. Rushmore for July 4 American Indian tribe bans GOP governor from reservation over opposition to Keystone protestors New governors chart ambitious paths in first 100 days MORE (R) in her gubernatorial race against state Sen. Billie Sutton (D).

The Associated Press: High midterms stakes for the Trump administration.

Reuters: Trump supporters to prove whether they’re behind a movement or a moment.

Former President Obama completed his midterm campaigning on Sunday with a Midwest swing through Illinois and Indiana.

The Memo: Trump and Obama face off for midterms.

The New York Times: No-drama Obama finds his bully and his pulpit against Trump while campaigning for Dems.

Perspectives and Analyses

Andrew Sullivan: Will the Republic strike back?
Carl M. Cannon: The Donald made them do it.
Mark Z. Barabak: This year the nation can’t ignore California.
Ramesh Ponnuru: Democrats give Trump an opening on immigration.
Daniel McCarthy: No going back, the GOP is Trump’s party.
Dana Milbank: No excuses now, our eyes are wide open.


CAMPAIGN ISSUES: A majority of Americans say the country is on the wrong track, even as economic growth and unemployment set upbeat records.

In rally after rally, the president urged his supporters to stay the course, including on immigration policies, GOP tax cuts and conservative judicial appointees.

But Democratic candidates made Trump an issue while arguing that Americans can’t afford GOP health insurance proposals and that middle-class wages remain too low.

NBC News: Health care, Trump and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Hillary Clinton slams Trump for spreading 'sexist trash' about Pelosi Hillicon Valley: Facebook won't remove doctored Pelosi video | Trump denies knowledge of fake Pelosi videos | Controversy over new Assange charges | House Democrats seek bipartisan group on net neutrality MORE (D-Calif.) have been among the top 2018 campaign themes. “If the Republicans want to spend $100 million criticizing me, demonizing me, I must be pretty important,” Pelosi told The New York Times.

From coast to coast, voters have been sifting through candidates’ competing policy visions and promises, with Trump serving as a kind of daily high and low tide.

Republican Senate candidates in Indiana, Missouri, Montana and North Dakota have seen their fortunes rise in the last few weeks as Trump talked up his tough-on-the-border immigration proposals (The Hill).

Democratic candidates in red states, on the other hand, have been feeling intense political pressure for months. They have tried to persuade voters they would work across the aisle on border security, while steering clear of Trump’s recent vow to end birthright citizenship with the stroke of his pen (The Hill).

Obama, working to gin up Democratic turnout in primarily blue and purple states, left some candidates in his party with little wiggle room while denouncing Trump’s border politics as a “stunt.” Obama adopted a decidedly activist posture in the final weeks of the midterms, especially when compared with other recent ex-presidents (The Hill.)

Trump ordered thousands of armed troops to the border, pledged to bar entry to migrants who claim refugee status under U.S. law, and described Central Americans as largely without merit to cross the U.S. border, no matter what the circumstances.

“I noticed all that beautiful barbed wire going up today. ... Barbed wire, used properly, can be a beautiful sight."  — Trump at a weekend rally in Montana

Caravans of thousands of Central Americans who are increasingly exhausted and frustrated have splintered apart, still nearly 1,000 miles away from the United States (The Associated Press). As of this morning, a large group of the trekkers plan to push on toward Mexico’s capital (The Associated Press).

Trump told voters he would seal ports of U.S. entry and end birthright citizenship by executive action following Tuesday’s elections. However, the intensity of legal and congressional debate suggest the president’s follow-through on his rhetoric depends on what happens after ballots are counted.

Forbes: How immigration policy might decide the election.



Health care animated voters of all stripes and in every region of the country during this cycle. Policy decisions made by the Trump administration undercut the efforts of vulnerable Republican candidates to show their support for Americans with pre-existing conditions (that includes 102 million people) (The Hill).

Medicaid expansion is on the ballot in four states on Tuesday, and voters in three states will decide whether to curb access to abortion (The Hill).

The go-go economy and last year’s GOP tax cuts did not quite cut the way Republican candidates hoped this fall. Why? There were a lot of economic crosscurrents, including flat-lined wages, a jittery stock market, tariffs that increased domestic prices for goods, and nervousness about the next recession.

The Associated Press: A vibrant economy complicates voting decisions.

The Hill: The political sway of a robust economy was drowned out by Trump’s midterm messages.

The Hill: The tech sector, a powerful force in the U.S. economy and in the financial markets, could be greatly impacted by the results of the midterm elections. The three issues to watch: Internet privacy, net neutrality and oversight of the Federal Communications Commission.

The Hill: Trump’s international and national security policies, including the administration’s stance on Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, will inevitably change if Democrats gain a majority in the House.


ELECTION NIGHT & LOOKING AHEAD: With a remote control in hand or computers and smartphones powered up, here’s how to keep pace with returns on Tuesday night. And, by the way, the suspense may not end when polling stations close.

The Hill: An hour-by-hour viewers’ guide for election night.

NBC News: Three early races to watch on Tuesday night.

The Washington Post: We may not know the winners on Tuesday.


Congress after the midterms: Once the state-by-state results are clear, the analyses, predictions and strategies for the remainder of 2018 and into next year come into focus. The chattering class will wield fresh takes on House and Senate leadership races and committee chairs, trade, foreign policy and Wall Street, and presidential candidates in 2020. Buckle up!

The Associated Press: Progress? Gridlock? How the midterms will affect the U.S. economy.

The Los Angeles Times: Midterm elections unlikely to end gridlock in Washington, analysts say.

Vox: If Democrats win the House, Trump’s foreign policy may be in trouble.

ABC News analysis, Rick Klein: Midterm results may confuse as much as they clarify.

Reuters: Financial industry lobbyists believe they can work with Democrats if the party gains the House majority next year.


2020 presidential primaries begin:

McClatchy: Presidential hopefuls send cash to critical 2020 states.

The Washington Post: Here’s how suburban voters could alter the House on Tuesday — and the White House in 2020.

GOP’s Ed Gillespie: “I do not know” if Trump will see a GOP primary challenger, he tells the Harvard Political Review in an interesting interview. “It is a little early. If you are a Republican right now, you are focused on getting through these midterms and trying to hold on to the House, Senate and governorships. That is where the focus is.”

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley & Alexis Simendinger Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Five myths about Saudi Arabia, by Madawi Al-Rasheed, Saudi Arabian scholar and visiting professor, London School of Economics and Political Science (The Washington Post).

Time for Washington to legalize marijuana, by former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Trump adviser expected to leave White House, join Juul The Hill's 12:30 Report: McGahn inflames Dem divisions on impeachment MORE, The Wall Street Journal.

Synagogue shooting caps a sad autumn, by Howard Blum, opinion contributor, The Hill.


The House and Senate will return to Washington to resume work on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

The president will wrap up his midterm election rallies for GOP candidates with appearances today in Cleveland, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Cape Girardeau, Mo.

The vice president travels to Kalispell, Mont., for a GOP rally, then flies to Rapid City, S.D., to support Republican candidates.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: 1,500 troops heading to Mideast to counter Iran | Trump cites Iran tensions to push through Saudi arms sale | Senate confirms Army, Navy chiefs before weeklong recess Senators say Trump using loophole to push through Saudi arms sale Trump to send 1,500 troops to Middle East to counter Iran MORE and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Artist designs stamp to put Harriet Tubman's face over Jackson's on bills On The Money: Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump | Trump to offer B aid package for farmers | House votes to boost retirement savings | Study says new tariffs to double costs for consumers MORE brief the news media at 8:30 a.m. about the administration’s Iran policy, resumption of sanctions and waivers granted to certain governments. Location: Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C.; streamed live on … Today in Tehran, the Iranian government said it will defy the reimposition of U.S. sanctions, which it called  “economic war” (Reuters) … Separately this afternoon, Pompeo meets with Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva at the State Department at 2 p.m.

Treasury Department Counselor to the Secretary Craig Phillips speaks at 3:45 p.m. at “Fintech Week,” sponsored by the International Monetary Fund-Georgetown Institute of International Economic Law, Georgetown Law, in Washington.


> Criminal justice: Little Rock, Ark., in 2012 had a police department “plagued by nepotism, cronyism and racism,” and 15-year-old Bobby Moore lost his life, investigative reporting by Radley Balko (The Washington Post).

> Accuser recants: “I was angry and I sent it,” an accuser who emerged during Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMurkowski celebrates birthday with electric scooter ride Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests MORE’s Supreme Court confirmation battle and recanted tells lawmakers. The Senate Judiciary Committee referred the case to the FBI (USA Today).

> HQ2: Amazon could decide to site a second headquarters (and 50,000 jobs) in Crystal City, Va., outside Washington, D.C. Talks have advanced (The Washington Post).




And finally … California’s most devastating wildfires have been off the front pages. But people who barely escaped the flames are months later still being reunited with pets they believed had perished.

Volunteers spend hours and in some cases days trying to lure confused, hungry and injured animals out of ash heaps and rubble. And thanks to ingenuity, technology and social media, animals and owners have been reunited (The Associated Press).

“So many of these people have lost everything,” one volunteer said. “The only thing they care about is finding their pet that they love. They want that hope back in their lives and we’re trying to provide that” (

Kudos to all kinds of rescuers on this Monday morning...